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Backlash against AP voters who supported Brian Cushing is building

The biggest steroids-related story that the NFL has seen in years, if not ever, continues to grow tentacles.  The morning after the unprecedented Associated Press do-over regarding the defensive rookie of the year award, anger is mounting within some media circles regarding the decision of 17 voters to vote once again for Brian Cushing, who gave in September a urine sample that tested positive for hCG, a non-steroid commonly used after a cycle of steroids.  (One voter, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, actually changed his vote from Bills defensive back Jairus Byrd to Cushing.)

The backlash started last night, when Austin Murphy of Sports Illustrated threw off the gloves and targeted the band of sportswriters who opted not to ban Cushing from receiving the honor.  “Memo to 18 AP voters who let Brian Cushing keep his award, despite clear PED use:  you should be drug-tested yourselves,” Murphy said via Twitter.  “What a f’ing joke.”

Vic Ketchman of was more tactful, but just as powerful.  “The message is that what Cushing did is no big deal,” Ketchman writes.  “The message is that
a lot of sportswriters believe that what Cushing did is nothing more
than what a lot of other players do, and that message greatly
disappoints me.  This kid had the look coming out of college.  Everybody
knew it but we all turned our back on it.  The use of
performance-enhancing drugs sickens me.  It is, in my opinion, the
ultimate in cheating.  This is far worse than what Bill Belichick did
with a video camera.  As everyone knows, I’m a firm believer in the
philosophy of innocent until proven guilty.  In Cushing’s case, he’s been
proven guilty, yet, he’s being suspended for two games fewer than a guy
who wasn’t even charged with a crime. 

“Worse, yet, my media brothers are
allowing Cushing to keep his award.  Shame on them.  They sold out.”

Our good friend Howard Balzer of the Sports Xchange and the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, who changed his own vote from Brian Orakpo to James Laurinaitis, was candid via e-mail.

“I’m almost too stunned for words,” Balzer said.  “When I found out the result of the Cushing vote and how some made their vote a protest of the process, I couldn’t believe it.

“The AP gave us a chance to right a wrong and it was fumbled badly.  And Cushing has the gall to say he is still ‘honored.’  Makes me want to gag.

“Those that say the AP move was unprecedented . . .  of course, it was.  When has an award been given one season, and before the next season is played we learn the winner used PEDs that previous year?

“In retrospect, the AP should have stripped him of the award, had a re-vote and declared him ineligible.

“Everyone that voted for Cushing originally should have considered one thing and one thing only before re-voting:  If he had been suspended last season would we have voted for him?  That answer is probably obvious, especially because the missed games would have impacted his production.

“This should have been easy.  It makes no sense.”

We agree.  And, frankly, we have an even bigger problem with the idea that people voted for Cushing the second time around not because they thought that Cushing should keep the award, but because they disagreed with the notion of doing the vote all over again.

Folks, if that’s the way you feel, then don’t vote at all, like ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.  Better yet, resign your position as a member of the panel. 

Really, if the voters disagree sufficiently strongly with the decision to conduct a second vote that they’re willing to go Veruca Salt and vote for Cushing again despite clear evidence he was using a banned substance that is the lemon juice to the hypodermic tequila shot, why in the hell didn’t they simply quit instead?

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, whom we respect and like, has taken this thing to a new level, openly calling it “absurd” to have a second vote. 

Again, then why participate at all?

And if the folks who decided to make a mockery of the process didn’t have the nerve to walk away from the 50-person club, the AP should force their hand, and force them out.

We know that at least 18 members of the sportswriting community, including our good friend Tom Curran, may not appreciate our message or the manner in which we’re delivering it.  When we take a hard stand on an issue like this, we do it because we believe it’s important to be willing to point out from time to time that the emperor is unwittingly riding down the street butt-naked on a horse. 

In this case, we believe that the emperor is aware that he’s naked, that he’s standing up in the saddle doing the Cabbage Patch, that he has a long piece of toilet paper stuck to his left foot, and that he intentionally put it there.

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Lawyer says La’el Collins met with police, answered all their questions

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The attorney for La’El Collins says he met with police today and is fully cooperating in the investigation of the murder of his pregnant ex-girlfriend.

“It went fine; we answered all their questions,” attorney Jim Boren told the Times-Picayune. “La’el is not going to make any comments. I’m not going to have any comments. The investigation is going to continue. La’el is now going to start making an effort to start getting his football career back on track.”

Asked if he thinks Collins will be cleared, Boren replied, “Only the police can answer that question. In my mind he’s been cleared from the very beginning. I think he’s not a suspect. He answered all the questions they had. Every question, we didn’t claim the fifth. We answered every single question. We gave them all the information they asked for. He’s ready to get his life back.”

Collins is under no legal obligation to say anything, but he knows that the only way he’s going to be able to convince an NFL team to sign him is if he can show that he was not involved in the deaths of Brittney Mills and her baby. Collins was expected to be a first-round draft pick until news of Mills’s death surfaced last week. If he’s exonerated he’ll be perhaps the most sought-after undrafted free agent in NFL history.

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Miles Burris says farewell to Oakland

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Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie added a new crop of rookies to the roster in the draft and those arrivals have helped ease one of McKenzie’s first picks in Oakland off the team.

Linebacker Miles Burris took to Instagram on Monday to say farewell to the Raiders and said he got to live his dream by playing for the same team that he rooted for as a kid. Burris was a fourth-round pick of the team in 2012, which made him McKenzie’s second pick (offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom was the first) as the man in charge of personnel in Oakland because the team didn’t have first- or second-round picks that year.

The Raiders haven’t made an official announcement yet, but the addition of linebackers Neiron Ball and Ben Heeney in the draft meant that there was some overcrowding at the position. Burris started every game for the Raiders last year, recording 109 tackles, but signing Curtis Lofton as a free agent was a clear sign the Raiders wanted another answer in the middle of their defense.

The team is also parting ways with wide receiver James Jones as they reset their roster after the draft.

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Two local products among Panthers undrafted free agent signings

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The Panthers brought in five players from around the country during the draft, but they looked a little closer to home when it came time to sign undrafted rookies to round out their roster.

Carolina announced 10 signings on Monday, including Clemson cornerback Garry Peters and South Carolina wide receiver Damiere Byrd.

Peters has decent size at 6-feet and was an All-ACC selection during his final year with the Tigers. The Panthers didn’t draft a cornerback to go with Bene’ Benwikere, Charles Tillman and Josh Norman. Byrd has a track background and showed it off at the Gamecocks’ pro day when he ran a 4.28 40 and performed well in the other drills as well.

They also signed running back Brandon Wegher, who ran for 113 yards in Iowa’s 2010 Orange Bowl victory. Wegher completed his college career at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa after leaving the Hawkeyes before his eligibility was up.

Utah linebacker Brian Blechen, Florida defensive tackle Darious Cummings, James Madison safety Dean Marlowe, Ohio State defensive end Steve Miller, Southern defensive end Arthur Miley, Memphis defensive tackle Terry Redden and Michigan punter Matt Wile.

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Former Bill Alex Carrington returns for free agent visit

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The Bills didn’t select any defensive linemen to provide depth for their talented starters during the NFL draft, but they may fill one of the roles on the depth chart with a player they drafted several years ago.

The Bills announced that defensive lineman Alex Carrington is visiting with the team. It probably won’t take him long to feel at home.

Carrington was a third-round pick by the Bills in 2010 and spent the first four years of his career in Buffalo before departing for St. Louis as a free agent last year. He had one tackle in eight games for the Rams and saw action in 44 games for the Bills in his time with the team. Carrington started his final three games with the team in 2013, but a torn quad ended his season and helped push him to another club as a free agent.

Carrington also showed a knack for blocking kicks during his time with the Bills and earned the nickname “Megahand” as a result. That skill could help him earn another shot at a roster spot in Buffalo.

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Cowboys decline to pick up fifth-year option on Morris Claiborne

Morris Claiborne AP

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in January that cornerback Morris Claiborne had done enough to justify picking up his fifth-year option.

But the Cowboys apparently did enough in the draft to make Jones change his mind.

According to Todd Archer of, the Cowboys declined to pick up the fifth-year option on the injured cornerback.

It makes sense, since Claiborne hasn’t played to a level to justify an $11.08 million deal for 2016. He’s also coming off a torn patellar tendon that limited him to four games last year, and he missed six games in 2013 because of hamstring problems.

They also invested their first-round pick in cornerback Byron Jones, another solid indicator of the direction they’re going.

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Eagles make changes, fire some Howie Roseman guys

Draft Eagles Football AP

With the 2015 NFL Draft in the books, it’s the time for teams with new General Managers to clear out the old scouting staff so they can bring in their own guys.

But while the Eagles didn’t technically bring in a new G.M., they’re shuffling out some of the leftovers from when Howie Roseman was in charge anyway.

According to Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News, the Eagles have fired director of college scouting Anthony Patch, pro personnel director Rick Mueller and area scout Brad Obee.

Bowen referred to all three as “Howie guys,” which meant their fates were largely sealed when Roseman was kicked upstairs and coach Chip Kelly got all the personnel power in the building.

Kelly promoted Ed Marynowitz to vice president of player personnel this offseason, and he’ll have a hand in putting together a new staff, though we all know who’s in charge.

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Jets part ways with director of pro personnel, five scouts

Mike Maccagnan AP

The Jets got good marks for coming away from the draft with players like defensive lineman Leonard Williams and wide receiver Devin Smith, but they still decided to make changes to their scouting department when the three days of picks came to an end.

The Jets announced that they have fired director of pro personnel Brendan Prophett and college scouts Rick Courtright, David Hinson, Cole Hufnagel, Chris Prescott and Seth Turner.

“I appreciate their contributions to the organization and wish them the best in the future,” General Manager Mike Maccagnan said in a statement.

All six of the men were holdovers from previous regimes and Maccagnan, hired this offseason, will be restocking the organization with his choices for the jobs. The Jets previously parted ways with former General Manager Terry Bradway and Jeff Bauer, two senior members of the scouting department, but teams often hold onto scouts they plan to let go through the draft to keep their own plans from leaking to other teams.

The Jets have hired Brian Heimerdinger and Rex Hogan for prominent roles under Maccagnan and there will likely be other additions in the near future as they restaff their front office ahead of the 2015 season.

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Greg Hardy’s farewell to Twitter wasn’t final

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Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy said farewell to Twitter last night, apparently at the behest of the team after making a decidedly unfunny reference to the 9/11 attacks.

But the farewell wasn’t really a farewell.  After posting a “Goodbye 4ever” tweet that prompted Tim MacMahon of to point out that the “Cowboys sure hope so,” Hardy retweeted various hostile fan responses to MacMahon, including one that called MacMahon an “asshat” and one that dubbed MacMahon a “d–krider.”

Right or wrong, love him or hate him, Hardy is being Hardy.  But if the Cowboys indeed suggested that Hardy pull the plug on Twitter, the plug has yet to be pulled.

At some point, it’s hard not to wonder whether the Cowboys will pull the plug on Hardy.  With $1.3 million committed to Hardy in workout bonuses, calling it quits in the wake of a 10-game suspension for domestic violence and subsequent behavior that suggests he doesn’t really get it would save the Cowboys some money and potentially win them some major style points.

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Colts waive RB Jeff Demps, three others

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The Colts have parted ways with a player known best for his rare speed.

Running back Jeff Demps, an Olympic medalist as a sprinter, was one of four players waived by Indianapolis on Monday, the club said.

The Colts had signed the 25-year-old Demps to a reserve/future contract in January. He also had a stint on the Colts’ practice squad last season. Demps had previously spent time with Tampa Bay and New England.

Demps was a member of the U.S. 4×100 relay squad that won a silver medal in London in 2012.

In addition to Demps, the Colts waived wide receiver Kadron Boone, defensive end Gannon Conway and offensive tackle Matt Hall. Boone, Conway and Hall all entered the NFL as undrafted free agents in 2014.

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Report: Vikings pick up 2016 contract options on Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith

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The Vikings had a pair of first-round picks in 2012 and they’ve reportedly moved to hold onto both of them for a fifth season.

Alex Marvez of FOX Sports reports that the team has exercised their fifth-year options on the contracts of left tackle Matt Kalil and safety Harrison Smith.

The Smith decision probably didn’t take the Vikings a long time to figure out. He’s coming off an excellent 2014 season and has been a starter when healthy since joining the team. Smith, who was the 29th pick, will be in line to make $5.278 million, although there’s a good chance they’ll work on a multi-year extension between now and the start of the 2016 season.

Kalil wasn’t as clear cut since he struggled in 2014 and the salary for the fourth pick will be above $11 million in 2016. The Vikings can withdraw the option if he doesn’t rebound in his fourth NFL season as the option is guaranteed against injury only.

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PFT Live: Seahawks talk with Bob Condotta, NFL draft review

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It was a busy weekend all over the world of sports with the NFL draft ranking near the top of the list of events drawing attention around the country.

We’ll take a look back at the three days of picks during Monday’s edition of PFT Live. Mike Florio will catch us up on all the biggest developments, riskiest picks and best moves from Chicago.

Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times will join Florio to discuss the Seahawks’ selections as well as the push for a new Russell Wilson contract and linebacker Bruce Irvin’s status with the team. Bob Kravitz of WTHR will also be on the show to talk about the Colts’ moves, including the selection of wide receiver Phillip Dorsett in the first round.

Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram will check in with the latest on the Cowboys’ decision to draft Randy Gregory while Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union will bring us all we need to know about Dante Fowler and the rest of the Jaguars draft class.

We also want to hear from PFT Planet. Email questions at any time via the O’Reilly Auto Parts Ask the Pros inbox or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour of the show by clicking right here.

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Report: Winston tapped brakes on ESPN interview

Winston AP

With Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, it’s always something.  For multiple reasons.

At times, it’s always something because there’s always something he’s doing that attracts scrutiny.  At other times, it’s always something because the media scrutinizes him more closely than other young players.  Regardless, anything Winston does that is remotely controversial will now become a headline.

Case in point:  Something Winston did on Thursday night became the top item for Richard Deitsch’s weekly sports media column.  As explained by Deitsch, Winston deliberately circumvented a ping-pong arrangement between NFL Network and ESPN regarding dibs on interviewing the first pick in the draft.

This year, it was ESPN’s turn to go first.  But Winston decided not to let ESPN go first.

According to Deitsch, Winston’s camp “was upset at the network’s overall coverage of the top pick prior to the draft.”  Winston’s agent predictably told Deitsch that “it was simply our preference that his first interview be with NFL Network”; however, there’s no reason to dispute Deitsch’s reporting that Winston and company retaliated, at least a little, against the four-letter network.

Winston’s agent downplayed the snub, explaining that ESPN got its interview a “few seconds later.”  But the damage was done.  Deitsch explains that, by the time ESPN got the interview, the draft had progressed several picks beyond Winston.  So the interview wasn’t played by ESPN until after the first round ended.

On one hand, it’s Winston’s right to choose NFL Network over ESPN.  On the other hand, why alienate a network with much greater reach and influence than NFL Network at the front end of Winston’s career?  Plenty of discretion will be exercised over the coming months and years by producers, analysts, and anchors regarding Winston.  Moving forward, will ESPN be more inclined to pull punches with Winston — or will they be more inclined to go for a knockout?

While Winston’s decision doesn’t carry the same stink of sexism as the Floyd Mayweather passive-aggressive credential stunt with Rachel Nichols and Michelle Beadle, attempting to influence coverage by declining or delaying interviews is always a bad idea, especially when doing it to a network that employs a small army of NFL reporters that can (and possibly will) hold anything Winston says or does against him.

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Falcons turning focus to Julio Jones extension

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The Falcons have wide receiver Julio Jones under contract for the 2015 season and they could make use of the franchise tag to keep Jones on hand in 2016, but General Manager Thomas Dimitroff says that the team would prefer to work something out that locks Jones up for years to come.

No contract talks have been held between the team and Jones’s camp at this point, but Dimitroff says that the end of the draft means that now is the time to turn attention toward a long-term extension for the talented wideout.

“There is no question that our focus in the future will be on Julio Jones and where we are,” Dimitroff said, via Vaughn McClure of “I don’t want to get into specifics about the timing of that, obviously. But now that the draft is over and we continue to build this football team, we understand that Julio is a very important part of our building and evolving as a championship-type team.”

Dimitroff said that Jones’s history of foot injuries wasn’t a concern after Jones rebounded from 2013’s extended absence to set a franchise record for receiving yards in a single season. A franchise tag for 2016 would be in the neighborhood of $13 million, which probably provides a pretty good jumping off point for contract talks.

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Some Colts players not happy with decision to draft Dorsett

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The folks running the football operations in Indy are getting public pressure from above.  They’re also getting private pressure from below.

Per a league source, multiple Colts players aren’t happy with the team’s draft strategy, specifically with the decision to use a first-round pick on receiver Phillip Dorsett.

The thinking is that the Colts should have taken a safety like Landon Collins or a tackle (defensive or offensive) with the 29th overall pick in the draft.  A receiver could have been taken later than round one, and he would have arrived with less of a presumption that:  (1) he’ll be on the field; and (2) he’ll have the ball thrown his way plenty.

With receiver T.Y. Hilton, tight end Coby Fleener, and tight end Dwayne Allen entering contract years and 2014 rookie Donte Moncrief coming into his own and veteran Andre Johnson trying to prove the Texans wrong and the Colts intent on developing a running game, the Colts don’t currently need another pass catcher with a pedigree that implies he’ll be a contributor, right out of the gates.

Over time, the Colts could be vindicated for sticking to their draft board; Dorsett could become the next Marvin Harrison or Reggie Wayne.  For 2015, however, he won’t do much to narrow the 38-point gap between the Colts and the Patriots.

With all NFL teams looking to win now and with a head coach in a contract year, the decision to load up on a position of strength at the expense of plenty of positions of weakness seems very confusing to those on the outside — and to some of those on the inside.

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Cardinals plan same role for Andre Ellington

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During the weeks leading up to the draft, the Cardinals were often mentioned as a potential trade destination for Adrian Peterson.

It made sense as a landing spot because the Cardinals struggled to run the ball effectively last season and because they’re good enough elsewhere that they might think a big move for Peterson would put them over the top. The Cardinals didn’t discuss Peterson, but coach Bruce Arians did allow that the team was looking for a back who relished contact in the draft to complement the shiftier Andre Ellington in the backfield.

The draft has come and gone and the Cardinals have neither Peterson nor the banger that Arians talked about. David Johnson, who was drafted in the third round, brings a bigger frame with him from Northern Iowa but he wasn’t grinding yards out after breaking tackles. He’s a pretty similar back to Ellington, actually, and thrives in the passing game, which helps explain why coach Bruce Arians says Ellington’s role isn’t changing.

“I think Andre will continue his same role,” Arians said, via “We’ll keep him healthy and let him continue to develop as a player, but the nice thing David can do is he can do everything Andre does, so you don’t have to change if there was an injury.”

Arians also said that Johnson could be the team’s kickoff returner next season, which supports the notion that he’s in town to provide insurance for Ellington as opposed to an alternate option as the leader of the running game.

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